I was asked to do an email interview by some high school kids wanting to do cartooning for a living. I decided to post the responses here, just in case there were some other young cartoonists out there seeking answers to the same kinds of questions. Hope its helpful…
Cartoonist/Comic book artist
1. Do you work in a building or at your house?
I work in a studio space with several other comic book artists, which helps us keep each other motivated, and stay on track with deadlines.
2. How can you cope with a creative block?
I can’t afford to not work, so I usually have to make myself sit down and work anyways. I give myself permission to do some terrible sketches to get started, but before too long i’m back to being creative. The hard part is making yourself sit down and not fall victim to distractions. Success is 10% talent, and 90% staying off the internet. Just remember, you can’t work with nothing – so even doing a bad sketch, can get you moving.
3. Do you have people who help you come up with ideas?
I have several people in the studio that help me develop ideas. I also have other artists that I’ve met over the years that also do this for a living, that I call when I’m really stuck.
4. How long does it take to complete the newspaper comic drawing process?
It takes a few days to come up with the idea/layout sometimes, but it rarely takes more than a few hours to actually draw it. Most of what drawing is, is problem solving. Once you’ve figured out the solutions to your problems, everything else is easy.
5. How many work hours do you work?
When i am working on a book, I’ve been known to work more than 80 hours a week. But I usually work 40 hours without even thinking about it. When you do what you love, you don’t think about how many hours it takes, especially when you’re having fun doing it.
6. How long are your hiatuses?
Hiatusus? I’m not sure what that is in regards to? If you mean times between projects, its not usually very long. I always have somebody waiting to work with me on a project for them. The trick is to keep moving quickly so no one gets frustrated.
7. Can you make comics for more than one newspaper?
I don’t actually make comics for newspapers. I make my own webcomic, which can be carried in newspapers. But for the most part I work for publishers that contract me to do a series of books for them. Usually somewhere between 3 issues and 7.
8. Were all your years of school worth it?
Not for me. I went to some schools that were a waste of time and money; and I went to some that completely changed my life. The trick is to get into the right school for YOU. Finding the right school can save you decades of learning, and can also help you get work. The wrong school can cost you tons of money and leave you without a career. I recommend talking to 5 people that are already doing what you want to do for a living, and ask them what schools THEY went to, and what it took for them to succeed. Also remember, just because a school claims to be good, and charges a lot, doesn’t mean they’re a good school. Talk to people that have already been there to find out.
9. How much could I make?
You can make as much as you decide to make. There are no limits, other than the ones in your head. As long as you are patient, focus on creating value for others, treat people right, and work harder than you ever have at anything, you can make really good money.
10.What knowledge does it take?
It takes a lot more than I could put into an email. Just assume, that you will never stop learning, never stop being a student, and get started right away, and you should be ok.
11. Why did you decide to be a cartoonist?
I was always passionate about creating stories. I didn’t have the talent when i started, but I had the passion, and I knew if I worked hard enough, eventually I would have the skills too.
12. How hard is this career?
Its very hard. The amount of work it takes, not only to learn the skills you will need, but to build your body of experience, and make connections – cannot be overstated. It is a lot of work. But so is anything worth doing. To get good at anything takes 10,000+ hours of hard work. The trick is learning to enjoy the process.
13. Does it require money to make a comic?
14. Are there any interesting points about this career?
I love what I do. Every day I get paid to draw. My worst day at this job is still better than my best day was doing anything else. And it just keeps getting better and better.
15. How often do you get days off?
I work a lot, but I have freedom. If I’m having a monday, I can make it a friday. If I’m tired of working in the office I can work at a coffee shop, or on the beach, or wherever. Just so long as the work gets done on time. If it doesn’t get done, my reputation suffers, and clients won’t want to hire me or recommend me again.